D-Day Beaches - Normandy

I booked on line a one-day tour of the Normandy Beaches with OVERLORD Tours ( www.overlordtour.com ). The tour included a visit to the Omaha and Utah beaches , the American Cemetery Memorial, St. Mere Eglise, Pointe du Hoc cliffs , driving through the countryside and other interesting spots. Our tour guide, Olivier, was very informative and charming, providing very deailed information about the allied invasion of Normandy. There are several tours including one to visit the beaches where British, Canadian and Free French troops landed. The American Cemetery Memorial is the most moving memorial site dedicated to American soldiers I have ever visited. Seeing over 9,000 white Crosses and Stars of David sitting on immacutaly keep green grass moved me to the core. Teddy Roosevelt Jr., ( son of President Theodore Roosevelt ) and a Medal of Honor recipient is buried here along his older brother who died fighting in World War I. There are many crosses dedicated as the inscrition reads ... " to a comrade in arms who is known only to God ... " The cemetery is locaated on a bluff above Omaha Beach and the land was given to the United States by the French nation in perpetuity. Anyone with a chance to travel should make the time to come here. Had it not been by the courage and sacrifice of these men Nazi Germany may not have been defeated and we would be living in a very different world today. The tour departs from the charming town of Bayeux and I recommend you stay at the Churchill Hotel. I didn't but will do so when I return to Normandy in 2014-the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Cost of the tour: 85 Euros, lunch not included.
Lest we forget ! Go to Normandy, visit the beaches and you will understand much more why we must be so very grateful to live in a democracy.

Posted by JB
Redding, CA, USA
1568 posts

Very nice trip report. We were moved to tears when visiting the American Cemetary. We took the Battle Bus tour several years ago and really enjoyed it. When you return, try to visit the American Cemetry just outside of Luxemburg City where General Patton is buried. We were amazed at how meticulously the American Cemetaries are kept by the people of Europe.

Posted by Carroll
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1471 posts

One correction to something JB said -- the American Cemetaries in Europe are built, operated and maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission, which is an agency of the federal government. They do a marvelous job. I've been to three of them so far, including the one in Normandy and the one outside of Luxembourg City that JB mentioned. They are special places for sure. Nice report, Al. I went to Normandy three years ago and loved it. I hope to return sometime.

Posted by JB
Redding, CA, USA
1568 posts

When were were at the American Cemetaries, there were locals running the shops and maintaining the shrubs and grass. We had conversations with them Luxembourg and Normandy because we were curious and impressed. It was our understanding that the US provides the funds for maintenance.

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
451 posts

Yes these cemeteries are managed by retired US military which hire all local people. St Avold has the biggest cemetery with over 10,000 WWII hero's. We have traveled with many friends to Europe and part of the deal is to pay respect to the fallen hero's of the war. There are many interesting stories and people who gave their lives which I have found thru research. Teddy Roosevelt Jr's story is one.

Posted by Jackie
Marysville, WA, USA
25 posts

We just returned from our trip to London, Paris, Italy and we also toured the dday beaches with Overlord tours, and spent one night in Bayeux. We did the half day tour and it was awesome. Bayeux and the dday tour was the higlight of our trip. Don't miss this part of France and the tour will give you a great history lesson!

Posted by Jean
Mill Creek, WA, USA
633 posts

I appreciate your post, Al! My husband always wanted to see Normandy Beach, so I surprised him last Christmas with plans for a France 2-wk vacation in June. We stayed in Caen and took the combined tour & Caen WWII Museum pass - both were excellent! As we walked up to the American Cemetary Memorial, a group was at the statue playing "taps"; it's even emotional just remembering it. My husband's most touching moment was when we were at Omaha Beach. (Didn't look as we expected.) We walked along the sand and as he turned, there looking up was the hill that our brave soldiers had faced. It really hit him. We loved our time in Paris, Avignon, etc. but our experience at Normandy Beach was similar to viewing a concentration camp. We need to remember.

Posted by Kim
1176 posts

Is Overlord the successor to Battlebus, does anyone know? My friend and I took an amazing tour with Battlebus a few years ago, and in my searches, I wasn't able to figure out for sure who from Battlebus had gone where (although if they were all at the level of our guide, they are all excellent, and it wouldn't matter too much which one you followed).

Posted by Jaye
Dallas, OR, USA
155 posts

Al, Thank you so much for the great report! A trip here is high on our bucket list! Can't wait to make it there. I will put this tour company name on my list for the future - thanks again - happy traveling!

Posted by Bill
Bloomfield, New Jersey, USA
3 posts

Nice report Al. I visited the area on 6 June 2010 with my then teenaged daughter. The museum at the American cemetery put the whole thing in perspective. My daughter was so moved that so many young men that were her age, at the time, were able to accomplish so much and sacrificed so much. The area should be a must-see for Americans visiting France.

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
451 posts

We were at the Normandy cemetery in Oct 11 when at close to 5:00 pm any veteran in the crowd was asked to help lower the flag. 6 of us step forward and I must say it was a very proud moment in my life. I don't get too many lumps or tears but they were there that day.

Posted by Beth
Grand Rapids, MI
1 posts

Thank you so much for the review, Al. Can you, or anyone, tell me approximately what time the all-day tours around Normandy/D-Day beaches are done? Is there time after the end of the tour to catch a train to Paris and find lodging there that night? We are considering traveling to Bayeux from elsewhere, staying there one night and then doing the Normandy tour first thing in the morning. Would like to know if we would need to reserve a second night in the area, or if we can move on to Paris and save a bit of time.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

hi, i was there last March and was on a private tour of the area and probably covered the same area as you. as you state, the US cemetary is a moving place. I was surprised at the unknown? soldiers memorial too. what was also a hair raising on the back of the neck experience was standing on Omaha beach at low tide. You feel really naked out there w/o any cover. happy trails and hope we dont ever forget what those solders did for us.

Posted by kat
277 posts

The highlight for me in Normandy was the 17 small British cemeteries dotting the French countryside (e.g. near Reyes). We accidently discovered these sites when picking up a map at the Rouen TI. Reading the personalized headstones surrounded by the bucolic farmland was such a powerfully poignant experience. There were also a couple of German graves located here.

Posted by Sheila
Buford, GA, USA
16 posts

Al is right on about the American Cemetery in Normandy. My husband and I were there last year and walked every row of the cemetery in awe of all the Americans (many of them 19 years old!) who gave their lives in their country's service. The museum has hours of videos, pictures and stories which made us both cry several times during our visit. The highlight of our day was seeing the French students playing "America the Beautiful" and other such songs and laying flower wreaths in the center of the courtyard to pay tribute to the brave Americans who helped liberate their country. It was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had and recommend taking the time to visit while in France.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22015 posts

@Kim (Paris), NO, Overlord Tours is not the successor to BattleBus (although some of the former BattleBus Guides may now be working there). The person that formerly operated BattleBus (Paul Woodage) is still offering tours at www.ddayhistorian.com (although slightly differently than previously). Another of the former BattleBus Guides (Dale Booth) has started his own firm, and is continuing to offer tours at www.daleboothnormandytours.com I've toured with both Paul and Dale, and they're both outstanding Guides! Check their respective websites for details on the tours they offer. Cheers!

Posted by Pam S
Aurora, Il, USA
66 posts

We also took a full day tour with Overlord, and Oliver was our tour guide. He was great. It was late October, and only 4 people on the tour. 2 had signed up for Band of Brothers, 2 had signed up for the American tour. We got a hybrid of both tours that was just great. Do research on your family's experience before you go. If you know the units in which your relatives served, they will tailor the tour to highlight your relative's experiences. Incredible.

Posted by Cary
Hayden, Idaho, USA
120 posts

Since June 6, 2014 will be the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings and heads of state will be present for the ceremonies, security will be very tight. I would recommend to anyone planning to visit Normandy in 2014 to consider attending the Memorial Day ceremony at Colleville-su-mer on Sunday, May 25, 2014. It is very moving, the roads will be far less congested to/from the cemetery, and it is open to the public. In 2014 you can check the website for the Am Battle Monuments Commission to get the exact time, but it's usually in the morning.